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Buckeye boasts increased expectations

YORKVILLE — Many people often wonder how much planning goes into a season and what the chances are that everything will be covered in the planning.

Well, planning for the 2020 fall season has gone off the rails.

Buckeye Local football coach Roger Herbert is also the school’s baseball coach. Last spring would have been his first on the Panther diamond, but COVID-19 wiped that out. As this fall’s football season closed in, Herbert wasn’t quite sure if that was going to happen. COVID lingered on, but Herbert continued to prepare.

“Despite everything that was going, the coaches and players showed up every day and came ready to work hard and prepare for the season,” Herbert said about the confusing times leading up to the opener. “We have no control over what may happen, so we have to prepare as we normally would.”

Last season was an important one for the Panthers and their fans. Sure, to most, a 2-8 record season isn’t much to celebrate, but Herbert and his Panther gridders managed to snap a lingering 43-game losing streak in ’19.

In the process, they also added a second win and closed in on a few more potential wins. The coach has the team on the upswing.

“Of course, we feel good about the coming season and our goals haven’t changed. We look forward to playing and we are hopeful that we can work our way into the playoffs,” the Panther boss said. “We aren’t looking to back into the playoffs. If we aren’t in the top eight then we will continue to play scheduled games. We want to earn our way in.”

Buckeye opens the rearranged 2020 season with a squad of 35 that include seven seniors, 16 juniors, five sophomores and eight freshmen.

Herbert is looking forward to the new season with a lineup that will see some changes, but one that will also include a lot of experienced players.

He noted that in addition to having Hayden Taylor back after transferring from Steubenville last season and being a big contributor, the Panthers have added sophomore Trey Hoover as a transfer from Martins Ferry. He will be taking over the role of starting quarterback.

At the end of last season, Herbert bid farewell to a good group of 11 graduating seniors. That group included four-year letterman Seth Richardson along with Lane Herbert, Ethan Powell, Gino Barber, Corban Westfall, Walker Doty, Charlie Smith, Zac Cesario, Sam Sabo, Garrett Cesario and Andrew Toto. That group was the core of the first three teams that Herbert had at Buckeye.

“Depth will be our shortfall,” Herbert said. “I like our interior line on both sides of the ball. They bring a lot of experience. We also a couple seniors who will be back after lettering the past three seasons.”

“Our strength will be in our experienced line, but our weakness will be in our depth,” he added. “As always, we are hoping to stay away from injuries that could force us to dip into our more inexperienced players too soon.”

Starting the new season, Herbert will welcome back seven seniors that include Taylor (5-9, 165), who will play some quarterback and running back; running back/linebacker Danny Nation (5-7, 160), fullback/linebacker Austin Langford (5-10, 190), Wide receiver/safety Andrew Wharton (6-4, 165), running back/defensive back Jacob Zanes (5-8, 160), tight end/linebacker Tyler Donahue (5-10, 190) and center/nose tackle Alexio Morales (5-10, 210).

Buckeye will be suiting up a large group of junior players that include some with considerable experience from a year ago.

Juniors donning the Panther jerseys are running back/linebacker Jacob Anderson (5-8, 160), wide receiver/defensive back Johnny Leput (5-7, 155), wide receiver/strong safety Brian “Bub” Palmer Jr. (5-7, 155), wider receiver/defensive back Seth Lewis (5- 8, 145), running back/linebacker Trevor Herbert (5-6, 130).

Adding to the junior contingent are a pair of two year starters. They are two-way end Luke Darrah (6-4, 225) and tackle/defensive end Hunter Darrah (6-6, 250) along with running back/linebacker Ayden Krupinski (5-9, 160), center/defensive end Corey Olinski (5-8, 175), tackle/defensive end Colin Lucas (6-0 170), guard/defensive lineman Justin Driscoll (5-9, 265), guard/defensive lineman Hayden Mort (5-9, 205), guard/defensive lineman Hunter Ruckman (6-0, 170), center/defensive tackle Kolby Keyoski (5-11, 205), two-way tackle Mariah Pelkey (5-9, 170) and two-way tackle Michael Kuzmicki (6-1, 230).

Herbert’s sophomore class is small in numbers, but bring some good players to the table including running back/linebacker Dylan Palmer (5-9, 165), Martins Ferry transfer quarterback/linebacker Trey Hoover (6-0, 205), kicker/defensive end Wyatt Kalman (5-5,145), two-way tackle Isaac Chandler (6 ft. 3, 240) and two-way tackle Randy Wade (5- 8, 225).

Eight freshmen will on the sidelines for coach Herbert. The group has quarterback/linebacker Skylar Ebright (5-9, 155), wide receiver/defensive back David Kirk (6-0 135), wide receiver/defensive back Brayden Risden ( 5-6, 140), running back/defensive back Noah Kourim (6-0, 155), fullback/linebacker Dewey Mort (5-8, 175), two-way end Carson Basich (5-6, 155), center/linebacker Nathan Long (5-7, 155) and tackle Zane Cunningham (6-2, 335).

Herbert indicated that offensively, he will be going with Hoover at QB with Taylor as an experienced backup that will be more of a wildcat. Zanes will be running at tailback with Taylor, Palmer and Leput also in the back field and as wideouts. Donahue will be the tight end. His offensive line will include Hunter and Luke Darrah at the tackles, Morales at center and Chandler and Driscoll at the guards. Keyoski will be backing up those front wall positions.

Defensively, the Darrahs will be manning the ends, Morales, Driscoll and Chandler will be on the interior. Nation and Langford will open at linebacker with Donahue, Hoover and Herbert called on a great deal. In the secondary, Buckeye will have Zanes, Palmer, Jr., Leput and Taylor. Dylan Palmer is expected to see a lot of time in the secondary.

Kalman will handle the kicking duties and Luke Darrah will be the punter.

Herbert as a staff that includes Kyle Solar, Chuck Watson, Lee Heisler and Dylan Stickler. Herbert added another key piece to his staff by bringing in former Buckeye North and Eastern Michigan standout Jim Hoover. Hoover will serve as the defensive coordinator. Along with the staff changes, Buckeye also welcomes a new athletics director in Jason Merryman.

“Our schedule has been downsized to fit the size of our team and school,” he pointed out. “Drops in enrollment have just about being a Division VI school and considering that at one time we were Division II, that’s a healthy drop.”

Buckeye Local’s schedule took a bit of a hit just as all Ohio schools did. After opening with a Thursday evening home contest against Barnesville, the Panthers will follow with road trips to Union Local and Toronto and then back home to host Indian Creek, Monroe and Shenandoah. Toronto replaces Oak Glen and Monroe is a replacement for River View.

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